The Los Angeles Lakers came into this game in a heated battle for the third seed in the Western Conference and held a .5 game lead over the Clippers for the Pacific Division crown.
The Lakers had not played well against the top teams in the Western Conference and they needed this win to prove to the world that they are still title contenders. Coming off a tough loss to the San Antonio Spurs, this was a chance for the Lakers to redeem themselves.
The Lakers played well in the first portion of the first quarter and began the game by attacking the Thunder from the paint. Oklahoma City doesn’t have a lot of size to match the Lakers’ big men and that allowed Los Angeles to go up 6-4 with 9:30 to play in the period.
The Lakers’ offense hit a little bit of a snag as the quarter progressed, but luckily the Thunder were a little off on that end of the court too. Los Angeles had a tendency to settle for perimeter jumpers and they were not attacking the basket like they once were. At the 6:00 mark of the quarter, the Thunder held a 12-9 lead.
Los Angeles picked up its offensive attack and once again penetrated to the paint to get points. Ramon Sessions was more aggressive and used the pick-and-roll effectively to either score or set-up his big men. After a Session to Pau Gasol alley-oop, the Lakers knotted up the score at 15 with 2:54 left in the quarter.
At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers faced a 20-26 deficit after Kevin Durant hit a three in the final seconds. Metta World Peace led the Lakers in scoring with six points, but as a team the Lakers shot 36 percent from the field.
The Lakers did not have Kobe Bryant or Andrew Bynum to begin the second quarter and it was a struggle for the team to generate some offense. As for the Thunder, the bench was completely outplaying the Lakers’ reserves and that allowed the team to go up 35-24 with 9:14 left in the half. James Harden was the centerpiece of the Thunder’s offense and was scoring and dishing the ball extremely well.
Los Angeles did turn on the switch after the Thunder went up by 11 points and this time it was Gasol who was the Lakers’ catalyst. Gasol was hurting the Thunder’s big men and his frontcourt mate Jordan Hill gave the Lakers solid play on both ends of the court with timely buckets and rebounds. At the 6:31 mark of the period, the Lakers were down 37-35 after a Kobe Bryant bucket.
The Lakers and Thunder went back-and-forth in the quarter and the Lakers were playing better basketball. Hill continued with his inspired play and he helped the Lakers tremendously in the period. With 3:00 left in the half, the Lakers were down by two 45-43.
Metta World Peace was ejected out of the game at the 1:39 mark of the period for his elbow to the head of James Harden. World Peace just dunked the ball and in the midst of his celebration, took down Harden.
After 24 minutes of play, the Lakers faced a 52-47 deficit. World Peace led the Lakers in scoring with 12 points and Gasol had seven points, five rebounds and six assists.
The Thunder started the second half well and were beating the Lakers to loose balls. The Thunder were knocking down shots and Kevin Durant continued to shoot the ball well. Los Angeles’ offense was not clicking and it was struggling on the perimeter. With 9:00 to play in the quarter, the Thunder were up 56-49.
The Lakers were lacking energy and it seemed like they were disinterested in the game. Andrew Bynum was not being very aggressive and he was being outplayed by the Thunder’s center. Durant kept his foot on the gas pedal and was attacking the basket with ease. At the 6:14 mark of the period, the Lakers were down 64-53.
Los Angeles was completely outplayed and nothing was going its way. The Thunder took complete control of the game and the Staples Center crowd was getting anxious. The lack of energy was killing the Lakers and that allowed the opponent to take a double-digit lead. At the 3:00 mark, the Lakers were down 70-55.
After 36 minutes of play, the Lakers faced a 77-61 deficit. The team was not playing very well and it looked like they were no longer giving an effort on the court.
The Lakers played well in the opening portion of the fourth quarter and Devin Ebanks led the surge. The Lakers did not have a very explosive lineup on the court, but they got their points by penetrating the paint. Ebanks scored four points in the early going and the Lakers cut the hole to 12, 79-67, with 8:59 left to play.
Los Angeles began to play with more heart and energy, and that helped them cut into the lead. The team was attacking the basket and their big men were finding their way to the free-throw line. Hill continued to give the Lakers some nice play and he helped the squad bring the deficit down to 11, 84-73, with 5:28 left to play.
The Lakers came alive in the fourth quarter and slowly chipped away at the lead. The guards were shooting the ball well from the perimeter and the frontcourt was helping them by scoring in the paint. With 3:18 left to play, the Lakers were down by five, 87-82.
Los Angeles played absolutely amazing in the fourth quarter and Kobe Bryant came up clutch in the period. Bryant had two huge threes in the final minutes and the Lakers and Thunder went back-and-fourth. The Lakers were down by 17 points in the fourth quarter, but the team rallied back and forced the game into overtime tied at 91.
The Lakers and Thunder continued with their back and forth affair, and the teams were tied at 97 with 1:40 to play. The Lakers were getting the shots they wanted and were executing their offense well. However, with the teams knotted up Kobe Bryant could not connect on his perimeter shot which would have given the Lakers the lead.
The Thunder had another chance to win the game, but this time Westbrook could not deliver and the game headed to a second overtime tied at 97.
In the second overtime, Kobe Bryant went to a different level and closed out the Thunder. Bryant was hitting shots from everywhere on the court and the Thunder defense could not do anything to stop him.
The Lakers were also making key defensive plays and were finishing off possessions with rebounds. Devin Ebanks, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill played incredibly well for the Lakers and played in the fourth quarter and both overtimes. Thanks to an Ebanks steal and two free throws by Kobe, the Lakers won 114-106.
This was perhaps the best win of the season for the Lakers and they never gave up despite the 17 point deficit in the fourth.
The Lakers will play their final game of the regular season on Thursday when they travel to Sacramento at 7:30 PST.
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